Mess-up at Khardung La to Nubra Valley | Ladakh Mega Meet

23

The Journey so far…

It was another fine night while sleeping at high altitude of Leh but was comparatively cold than last night. We had to wake up early in the morning by 6.00 AM as we had plans to leave by 7.00 AM for Nubra Valley via Khardung La Rigzin and his friends were supposed to be there around 7 too.

A Teaser… Leading you Deep into Heaven called Nubra Valley
Leading you Deep into Heaven called Nubra Valley
Day 4 | Leh – Khardung La – Diskit – Hunder (Nubra Valley)

I woke up by 6 AM as alarm screamed, got ready in next half an hour, looked outside and it was a clear day with a bright sky. I saw others also getting up ready and some were already sitting outside sipping tea… What a feeling !! I walked out too and enjoyed a cup tea with the gang. We settled the bills in a bit of mess as one of the guy in the group exchanged the numbers of two rooms 😀 … But, it soon ended with co-operation of guys at Hotel Panorama and we asked them to offer similar prices for the people coming through DoW before bidding adieus… Tapan ji and his friends were supposed to meet us near the Leh gate too. I was so glad to see everyone obeying as well as respecting DoW’s “Leave Early, Sleep Early” policy whenever in Himalayas… But, wait a minute 2 guys were missing from Anees group :shock:, when asked for, we were told that they are having AMS, mostly because of too much booze and floating in half sleeve T-Shirts for last couple of days :(… They did not want to continue with the trip and had booked the flight back home being scared of breathlessness and nausea. I asked them to relax completely and keep the body hydrated. Saying good bye to them, we all left about 25 minutes late as expected. Also, Bhupinder had left back home in his fiesta leaving Shekhar and Lokesh behind as they decided to continue with the trip. Unfortunately, Bhupinder had some tragedy at home and his child was also unwell, so with heavy heart decided to move back home in early hours via Srinagar – Leh Highway. Rigzin had quickly arranged an XUV Taxi for both Lokesh and Shekhar, so they were good to go with us for most part of the trip. Gagan and Neha, were still having breakfast and asked us to join over on the route to Nubra Valley Meanwhile, Tapan ji had already started moving after waiting for about 10 – 15 minutes. Finally, we also exited the Leh town and were soon on the road to Khardung La – Nubra Valley…

Hotel Panorama, Leh
Hotel Panorama, Leh
Beautiful Flowers from Leh – Ladakh
Beautiful Flowers from Leh - Ladakh

Beautiful Flowers from Leh - Ladakh

Beautiful Flowers from Leh - Ladakh

We could see the Stok Range running parallel in front, guarding the entire region of this heaven, what a sight !! Soon we stopped for couple of picture breaks only to realize both Nabeel and Benjamin are missing because they had not carried the petrol last night 😯 😯 … It was sad to know as we could not even connect over phone with them. We reached South Pullu, submited the permits and found that Army Convoy has left despite us leaving a bit early 😥 … This was not a good sign. We waited for Nabeel but could not see him up to far distance, so decided to provide the registration number of his bike to the officer collecting the permits and requested him to let him pass as his permit is with us. Thanks to the supporting nature, the officer was glad to help us.

Plastic Bottles are Banned in Ladakh, not sure why they are still sold? 😀
Plastic Bottles are Banned in Ladakh
My Travel Companions, Smiling ;)…
Dheeraj's Friends in Ladakh
Road leading to Khardung La from Leh
Road leading to Khardung La from Leh
Stok Range, guarding the Heaven called Ladakh
Stok Range, guarding the Heaven called Ladakh

We left from South Pullu and Rigzin was in a hurry to cross over Khardung La bypassing various trucks of Army Convoy, which is just about 40 odd KMs from Leh. I had to break to pee and still he was refusing to stop owing to the fact that we will get behind 6-7 trucks we just crossed !! That’s how it goes in Ladakh, in order to combat AMS, you have to drink a lot and when you drink a lot, you are forced to pee and then again re-hydrate yourself. I always use ORS Soluted water to keep balance of all lost minerals and salts, which is key to AMS. Anyways, I had to control until we had sufficient lead time and then he stopped suddenly asking everyone to get over it quickly 😀 😀 … Soon, we approached the first land mark towards the Khardung La that is India Gate and the horrendous time started !! In all fuss and mismanagement the convoys had been left from both North Pullu as well as South Pullu in the morning itself, resulting in a KM long traffic block on narrow roads up there at 18000 feet 😯 😯 … Time passed by and no one moved as it was all deadlocked from both sides. There was no way to give a pass in such narrow lanes up there near Khardung La… As more time passed we crawled and then pleaded one of the truck to give us side so that small vehicle can by-pass. The only resort in such a case is that you some how reach the top where there is enough space to cross over but it was all messed up there too with a deadlock. Then, it was just couple of hundred meters from the top when we decided to walk out of the smoke zone fro our cars !! Icy cold winds were blowing and it was some walk up to the top…

Khardung La Top with very little snow in September
Khardung La Top, very 
little snow in September
The Mess up at Khardung La
The Mess up at Khardung La

The Mess up at Khardung La

We had already spent about 45 minutes in traffic jam at such high altitude with super cold wind blowing you away, which was getting very tricky and I was getting very anxious about well being of everyone including myself 😉 … Some of us had already started feeling unwell and then suddenly the traffic move from the top and Rigzin along with his friend made it to top. In a hurry, I was running up there, shouting names over the top and asking everyone to get in the cars as they were busy taking pictures besides the hoarding of fourth Pass of our trip, Khardung La claimed to be at an altitude of 18,380 Feet !! (most pics of Khardung La are taken by dear friend Shakti ;)) Well, I understand their feeling but life is much more important you know than being a photo at Khardung La 😉 … In a jiffy, three cars were ready to move down but Innova had still not been around and I started shouting at one guy behind me to get in quickly and his lack of understanding on the the criticality of the situation. The guy looked familiar to the guys from Anees group… He appeared cold and soon I realized I was talking to some other guy unknown to us !! I apologized, both of us smiled and as the Innova also came in, our convoy moved ahead to descend towards Khardung Village, the first village in Nubra Valley at an altitude of about 14000 feet. In between, we stopped at North Pullu too to submit the permits and since there were no signs of Nabeel, we followed the same process as we did at South Pullu for him.

Souvenier Shop and Museum at Khardung La
Souvenier Shop and Museum at Khardung La
Rinchen Cafeteria at Khardung La
Rinchen Cafeteria at Khardung La
Khardung La, as claimed to be highest motorable road 😉
Khardung La, as claimed to be highest motorable road

After reaching Khardung, we finally put up there for about 1.5 Hr, having our breakfast and feeling good about the place and thanking god that everyone was OK except little bit on Sourabh front. He also did ride a bike on a cold day in Leh, so cold had hit him and he was having minor symptoms of AMS. But, overall he was fine and good fact was he was taking rest wherever possible. Well, at the dhabha at Khardung Village, Rigzin and his group got on with the dhabha guy and helped him cook paranthas, tea, rice, Maggie and what not 🙂 🙂 !! We had quite fun over there for about an hour or so before leaving towards Diskit !! Everyone was embracing the beauty of Nubra Valley as we drove deep into it towards Diskit by passing other villages of Nubra Valley including Khalsar In the afternoon, we reached Diskit Monastery and this time we decided to first go towards Old Diskit Monastery. I was in no mood to climb stairs, so I decided to stay in the car and sleep for a while as others went up and came back. It was good half an hour of knap for me 😀 😀 … Then we went over to new Diskit Monastery, where the 106 feet tall Buddha Statue was installed few years back… The views of Diskit village from both these monasteries are just breath-taking. Suddenly, a dust storm started over there, so we all decided to head to Hunder where we had plans to stay overnight in some economical guest house.

Colors of Nubra Valley starting to flourish
Colors of Nubra Valley starting to flourish

Colors of Nubra Valley starting to flourish
Shekhar, Thumb’s Up for the magical views and this epic adventure
Shekhar, Thumb's Up for the magical views and this epic adventure
An aerial view of a distant village in Nubra Valley
An aerial view of a distant village in Nubra Valley
Shyok River and widening views of Nubra Valley
Shyok River and widening views of Nubra Valley
Heavenly Road to 106 Feet Tall Buddha Statue at Diskit Monastery
Heavenly Road to 106 Feet Tall Buddha Statue at Diskit Monastery
An aerial view from Old Diskit Monastery
An aerial view from Old Diskit Monastery
An aerial view of Diskit Village, Headquarters of Nubra Valley
An aerial view of Diskit Village, Headquarters of Nubra Valley
106 Feet Tall Buddha Statue at Diskit Monastery
106 Feet Tall Buddha Statue at Diskit Monastery

106 Feet Tall Buddha Statue at Diskit Monastery

After searching a bit we landed at Yourdum Guest House at Hunder which was very peaceful, calm, clean, well-maintained and lovely. The guest house had decently spaced rooms, 3-4 with attached bath and 2-3 with shared baths. The family running the guest house was very very generous and welcoming. They had a small garden and food over there tasted great too. All that in the range of Rs 600 – 900 depending upon room you choose and number of people staying in on room. You can read my detailed review of the guest house in the DoW Community thread: Yourdum Guest House – Hunder, Nubra Valley, Ladakh | Review

Thanks to Rigzin for this lovely, affordable property for our stay. We settled after that mess up at Khardung La, took rest for couple of hours before going over to Hunder Sand Dunes in the evening. After a while, we saw Tapan ji coming in and I was amazed to see him as I did not expect him to search us without  even getting connected and knowing our whereabouts 🙂 🙂 … Hats off to his searching spirit !! We shared our stories of mess up of Khardung La, chatted over the program for next day for scaling over Wari La Pass to reach Pangong Tso It was a good half an hour chat in the little garden of the guest house and he left for Diskit where he was staying in a hotel. There were still no signs of whereabouts of Nabeel, Benjamin, Gagan and Neha… We were damn sure they must be having a horrible time too up there at Khardung La because they left much late than us, meaning more traffic jam as more trucks were approaching the top from both sides !!

Soon it was evening and all of us went to Hunder Sand Dunes where the group went out to enjoy the double humped camel safari and since I had pretty much taste of it, I decided to walk over around the Sand Dunes alone… It was such a lovely feeling which cannot be expressed in words here !! It was pure solitude sitting up the hump of a sand dune, seeing the majestic back drop of cold desert, a small rivulet and double humped camels walking in the foreground with tourists/travellers from different parts of the world… Just like a dream place, much like childhood drawings !! I enjoyed my little peace for about an hour before reaching out back to the group, taking pictures of them as they arrived back from their Camel Safaris.

Hunder Sand Dunes in Nubra Valley
Hunder Sand Dunes in Nubra Valley
An evening midst Sand Dunes of Hunder
Hunder Sand Dunes

Hunder Sand Dunes
DoW Gang Completing their Double Humped Camel Safari
DoW Gang Completing their Double Humped Camel Safari at Hunder

DoW Gang Completing their Double Humped Camel Safari at Hunder
Double Humped Camels at Hunder, Nubra Valley
Double Humped Camels at Hunder, Nubra Valley

Double Humped Camels at Hunder, Nubra Valley

Double Humped Camels at Hunder

It started getting dark and we saw couple of bikes, but unfortunately they were not Nabeel or Bejnamin 🙁 🙁 … After we reached back the guest house, I finally got the call from Gagan and got to know about their safety. Both Nabeel and Benjamin were with them and they had checked into the same hotel over road which was near to the one Tapan ji were staying in Diskit. All of them were not well and they were stuck up at Khardung La for more than 2 Hrs, man that is almost deadly and AMS had hit them already!! All of them were exhausted and vomited at night over there and had terrible time. Actually, since more trucks had reached the top, the traffic jam up there had extended and then a truck fell into the gorge which lead to emergency up there!! People rushed down and carried the driver for medical attention up there at Khardung La medical post. The driver broke his back and Nabeel also caught up one foreign biker as his bike started rolling down towards a gorge during same time 😯 😯 … Somehow with the efforts of couple of more people that foreigner was saved from falling down. Until emergency, the traffic was not allowed from either direction. May god give strength to the family of that poor driver who broke his back in the accident. Much more horrible experience for them but thank god they all were safely down to 10,000 Feet which is quite acceptable for our body. Just imagine, how things could go horribly wrong up there in Trans – Himalayas with one such wrong decision… Hence, we should always respect “Leave Early, Sleep Early” policy when up there in Trans Himalayas just to mitigate any risks and have more time on hand with Daylight. We also suffered leaving half an hour late too !!

Anyways, as I told everyone about their safety, there was a sigh of relief for everyone… It was night but not very much cold in Nubra Valley. Some were watching TV in the common dining room, some enjoying gups shups, some drinks and some like us, tea 🙂 … I was also enjoying tea with Rigzin and his gang, chatting with them about various things and DoW Causes, their execution, thoughts and vision behind them, how their support will help each one of us live such causes in reality at such remote places of Himalayas … There were some issues/concerns with the way Bhupinder had asked Rigzin to arrange taxi for Lokesh and Shekhar. They were supposed to go back or something like that I really can’t remember but it was not aligned to what we will be following even in Ladakh forget Manali – Leh Highway and Chandratal I requested Rigzin to talk to driver, please settle the route/bill amount with Shekhar and Lokesh and clear their doubts. The matter was sorted out and all were happy as there were some miscommunication and confusion on the part of everyone… Smiles around!! Finally, our dinner was ready and believe me it was too good to have at such a place. I only had good food in Nubra Valley once before on all my trips there but this one was the BEST so far !! It was homely, fresh and tasted very nice… After dinner, as all of us were much tired and had to leave early morning for sure to scale Wari La Pass, we all went for the sleep in no time 😉

Have you ever got stuck at Khardung La?? Did you face any issues over the journey to this magical place? Do share your experience of Nubra Valley too with me…

The Journey ahead…

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You can call me an Avid Traveler, a Day - Night Dreamer and a Passionate Lover of Himalayas who has a high zest for driving whilst exploring new places in Himalayas & sharing back those Himalayan Travel experiences with the other fellow Travelers... I am in love with Spreading Smiles in Himalayas through DoW Causes & currently enjoying life as Happy Traveling Soul at DoW Community. You can read more about me in detail at the link here ...

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23 Comments

  1. Arvind Verma on

    Dheeraj sir,
    No snow at khardung la(above pic) in the month of September in comparison to your other tour (kharding la-where snow galore)……… shocking…..

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  9. Psychobaron on

    Nice write-up and very good pics. I was in Ladakh for around 5-6 days in September 2013. I had my fights with AMS too [walked around 8-10 kms on day 1]. I held on long enough to ride till Khardungla and Kargil but ultimately decided to return to Srinagar [being alone and having AMS is a little scary]. I later found that i had HAPE [complications of AMS] But it’s a place of uncomparable beauty…worthing going back a million times… Thanks again for your article.. Happy and safe travelling..

    • Psychobaron, thank god, first of all to know that you are safe after put into HAPE condition and I can co-relate to the fact that being alone and hit with AMS is something too too bad and scary !! I feel you did the right thing to descend to Srinagar because the beauty of Ladakh will remain there, we need to survive long enough to see it 🙂 … First two days after getting into Leh, is big NO for any exertion whatsoever, no matter how fit you are. One must understand that fitness is subject to relative conditions one live in and those up in high altitude is different terrain all together !!

      Hope you make next one trip to Ladakh as memorable with full of exploration 🙂

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  12. Prasad Np on

    High altitude and Daroo don’t mix but dilli walon ko kaun samjahye! I loved your story of the power nap, I do it very often on treks also when I will get tired I will just sit in shade after putting an alarm of 30 min! Waking up to ready to hike again…

    • Ha Ha Ha, Prasad but this time all dilli wale were in control rather it happened to the guys from Bangalore, guess they under-estimated our repetitive warnings 😀 … Yeah, these naps does help you alot in terms of freshening up and above all adds elements of joys to the day of travel 😀

  13. Neeraj Sinha on

    Thanks Dheeraj for sharing your experiences, i alongwith my two friends went to ladakh in the last week of jun-13, unfortunately two of us gone into AMS and we had to come back, I still feel that i have to go again because I want explore Nubra valley, Spiti valley, tso Moriri…this year are you people to visit ladakh again..???? I would like to join your group for this heavenly journey..:)

    • It happens Neeraj !! AMS is a key factor for success of any trip to High Altitude places including Ladakh. Well, this year our mega meet will happen in Spiti valley from 12th Sept to 21st Sept. A write up will be soon floated by end of this month and in case you are interested, feel free to mark your presence in the community event.

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